Are there risks from nanotechnology?
Some engineered nanoparticles, including carbon nanotubes, although offering tremendous opportunities also may pose risks which have to be addressed sensibly in order that the full benefits can be realized. We have all learned how to handle electricity, gas, steam and even cars, aeroplanes and mobile phones in a safe manner because we need their benefits. The same goes for engineered nanoparticles. Mostly they will be perfectly safe, embedded within other materials, such as polymers. There is some possibility that free nanoparticles of a specific length scales may pose health threats if inhaled, particularly at the manufacturing stage. Industry and government are very conscious of this, are funding research into identifying particles that may pose a hazard to health or the environment, and how these risks may be quantified, and minimised over the whole lifecycle of a given nanoparticle. There is no doubt that nanotechnology has great potential to bring benefits to society over a wide range of applications, but it is recognised that care has to be taken to ensure these advances come about in as safe a manner as possible.